This image is based on a Christmas motif found in vintage children’s books and cards. It is usually centered on an evergreen tree, with the animals celebrating the holiday in the forest. This particular version refers to a golden-book illustration from the 1950's.
Thinking of the evergreen as a symbol of Christmas, I was reminded of its legendry status among pagan religions. Trees that remain green throughout the winter have held magical status for the Egyptians, Romans, and Ancient Druids.
The idea of anthropomorphized animals fills pagan legend. Seeing these forest animals marching in a circle seemed almost ritualistic, and so the idea for this painting was born.
The animals carry the minor arcana of the tarot, the swords, wands, cups, and pentacles... These suits regard the 4 elements, suggesting they are either in control of or burdened by the elements or their aspects. One animal carries the odd item, the skull. A symbol of esoteric knowledge (as well as mortality), the skull in this circle may imply the death card of the tarot. The death card of the tarot is tied to change, and an exchange of energies.
The circle these animals tread upon is a Pseudo-Hexagram of their own design. The Pseudo-Hexagram, as used in the Golden Dawn system of magic, or by Aliester Crowley, is attached to the presidency of the sun and moon over the 4 elements united in the spirit... this implies that the animals may be taking charge of the elements they carry, and that they will be the agents of change. (And the fact that the skull is human suggests a nature vs. man scenario.)
Of course, it is not meant to be a frightening image. While the world around them is dark, a bright light is focused on the animals. Smiles and confidence abound in this little group. It is a celebration, reassuring us of the evergreen magic of nature!